2019 Sustainability Report

Sustainability at Clearway Energy Group

Clearway Energy Group works to create a sustainable future by providing affordable, reliable, clean power to customers and communities across the country. We seek to set an example for the renewable energy industry by focusing on sustainable operations while continuously growing our company.


  • 4.3 GW

    of clean energy delivered to the grid, including utility-scale solar, community and distributed solar, and wind energy


  • 7 million metric tons of CO
    2

    avoided for our customers – the equivalent of taking 1.5 million cars off the road for one year


  • 800,000 Households

    could be powered by Clearway’s fleet of wind and solar energy projects across 25 states

Our commitment to making the world a better place begins with considering the long-term impacts of everything we do. We prioritize care for the environment, respect our employees, neighbors and their communities, and strive to build lasting relationships with our business partners. We take our responsibility to operate sustainably very seriously because we know it’s the right thing to do—for ourselves, our stakeholders, and future generations.

In late 2019, we began developing and implementing processes to collect and report environmental data such as fuel use, water, waste and GHG emissions. At the time of this report’s publication we have obtained environmental data from over 50 percent of Clearway sites and have a goal of collecting and reporting on 100 percent of our sites in our 2020 report.

In 2019, we did not have any instances of non-compliance with laws or regulations that resulted in significant fines or nonmonetary penalties for non-compliance.

What’s Inside

  • Message from our CEO
  • Message from our sustainability report co-chairs
  • About our company
  • Sustainability context
  • Leading a clean energy future
  • Commitment to operational excellence
  • Our people
  • Corporate citizenship & community engagement
  • The future of sustainability at Clearway
  • Acknowledgments

Business & Government Customers

More than 220 companies globally have committed to 100 percent renewable energy, and in the U.S. more than 100 cities have adopted ambitious 100 percent clean energy goals. Clearway Energy Group is proud to count many of our customers among these groups, and to be playing a role in helping our customers achieve their sustainability targets.

As of 2019, Clearway has over 100 power purchase agreements with businesses, corporations, educational institutions, and governments across the country.

 

CUSTOMER SPOTLIGHT

ECOLAB Customer Spotlight

In 2019 Ecolab Inc. signed a virtual power purchase agreement (VPPA) for 100 MW OF WIND ENERGY FROM CLEARWAY’S MESQUITE STAR WIND FARM, enough to cover 100 percent of the company’s U.S. electricity use annually.

VPPAs are a type of contract in which the buyer purchases all the benefits associated with renewable energy generation from a specific facility without taking physical delivery of the power.

“We continually work to improve the sustainability footprint of our customers’ and our own operations, and the renewable electricity generated from Clearway’s Mesquite Star wind farm will help us reduce our greenhouse gas emissions 10 percent by 2020 versus a 2015 baseline,” said Emilio Tenuta, Vice President of Corporate Sustainability, Ecolab.

Ecolab is the global leader in water, hygiene and energy technologies and services that protect people and vital resources.

Biodiversity

Clearway Energy Group’s focus on clean energy production is rooted in a desire to protect and conserve the world around us. We are committed to understanding the potential and actual impacts of our projects on animal, bird and plant species, and to correcting or mitigating these impacts when they occur.

In the U.S., all power generation projects are required to go through extensive environmental review and permitting processes at the federal, state, and local level. This can include comprehensive environmental impact assessments that evaluate a project’s potential impact on air and water quality, wildlife habitat, biodiversity, and other aspects of the natural environment.

Our robust environmental policies and procedures ensure that our development process for new projects meets or exceeds federal, state, and local environmental requirements, and that our existing generation assets operate within the scope of their permits and regulatory approvals.

Biomonitoring to Protect Sensitive Species

Some of the wind farms in our operations portfolio have the potential to directly affect protected species. These include California condors, bald eagles, golden eagles, whooping cranes, and bats (including hoary, Indiana, big brown, eastern red and tricolor bats). In keeping with our commitment to preserve and protect biodiversity and avoid harming wildlife, we implement rigorous biomonitoring and curtailment protocols at facilities that could impact these species.

Under a program managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, California condors are outfitted with lightweight transmitters to track their movement and survival status. These same transmitters can be used to determine their proximity to wind turbines, enabling the stoppage of individual turbines to ensure the birds’ safe passage.

These transmitters emit VHF radio signals or GPS location data, enabling trained monitors equipped with special hand-held receivers and binoculars to verify the condor’s location and flight path. If it is determined that the condor’s location and direction of travel could cause it to intersect with one or more wind turbines, the monitors direct operations staff to stop the turbine(s) to protect the condors.

For facilities where bald or golden eagles have the potential to interact with wind turbines, human-based monitoring and curtailment is considered the industry best practice and is the method we use most frequently. As with the California condor, eagle monitoring involves specially trained personnel watching the skies and alerting operations staff if an eagle is approaching.

However, we’ve gone a step further and in 2019 began the installation of an IdentiFlight system at one of our facilities. IdentiFlight is an optical, machine-learning technology designed to detect and track eagles and send a signal to temporarily stop turbines in the eagle’s path. This highly sophisticated system has been proven to be as effective as trained human observers and are one of many innovative technical solutions developed to protect wildlife while harnessing the power of the wind.

Some of our facilities in the Midwest lie within or near a 200-mile wide migratory corridor used by the Aransas-Wood Buffalo population of whooping cranes, which winter in the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in southeast Texas and migrate to Wood Buffalo National Park in Alberta, Canada to nest. Although whooping cranes typically fly at altitudes well above the reach of wind turbines, the potential exists for individual birds to fly at lower altitudes, or even be on the ground within the project boundary. As such, our facilities in or near this migration corridor have procedures in place to stop turbines as needed during the spring migration (usually from mid-March to mid-May) and fall migration (usually from mid-September to mid-November). These procedures were implemented at our Buckthorn Wind facility in Texas, which began commercial operation in 2019.

We have one wind facility in an area with significant bat activity, and we employ “seasonal curtailment” to minimize its impacts. During the summer and fall seasons when bat activity is the highest, the facility’s turbines are stopped if wind speeds are below 5.0 meters per second—if wind speeds are above this cutoff, bats are unlikely to be flying. This approach, which has been shown to help reduce bat mortality, was developed based on a multi-year study and in consultation with a technical advisory committee comprised of federal and state environmental and wildlife agencies.

Restoring Native Shrubland at California Valley Solar Ranch

California Valley Solar Ranch (CVSR) is a 250 MW solar photovoltaic facility operated by Clearway Energy Group that is located on 1,650 acres of open grassland in eastern San Luis Obispo County, California. As part of the development and permitting process, more than 9,000 acres of lands in the vicinity of site were protected from future development through a series of conservation easements. The lands covered by the conservation easement are monitored and managed by Sequoia Riverlands Trust.

Because much of the land in the surrounding region had been previously degraded through grain farming, livestock grazing, and the introduction of invasive plants and weeds, it was determined that a project to restore a portion of this area to its native shrubland would be highly beneficial.

In 2019, we implemented an initiative to restore portions of the land in the conservation easement to its natural state through the reintroduction of native grasses and shrubs. The goal of the restoration project is to create a mosaic of shrubland and grasslands that will ultimately provide enhanced habitat for native wildlife species such as the giant kangaroo rat, San Joaquin kit fox, San Joaquin antelope squirrel, and pronghorn antelope.

We will continue to monitor and report on the success of the initiative for a period of seven years and may conduct additional plantings if needed.

Education Partnerships

Across the country, Clearway Energy Group’s project site teams are involved in both formal and informal community and education partnerships. In 2019, operations and maintenance staff at several of our wind and solar farms organized and participated in a series of educational activities.

In 2020, Clearway will formally expand these activities with the launch of its Adopt-a-School program, under which every utility-scale project site we own and operate will adopt one or more schools and participate in three activities that support education or community service annually.

  • Bloomfield, NE

    Elkhorn Ridge & Crofton Bluffs sponsored county
    fair events and hosted multiple site tours. The team also delivered a presentation on wind energy to local students.

  • Fort Bridger, WY

    Mountain Wind hosted multiple onsite tours with various local schools and organizations from Utah and Idaho.

  • Spanish Fork, UT

    Spanish Fork hosted multiple onsite tours with
    various local schools and organizations from Utah and Idaho.

  • Sweetwater, TX

    South Trent Wind donated to a local performing
    arts organization to support student art programs.

  • Berlin, PA

    Lookout Wind sponsored a community fair event, during which it displayed a model wind turbine and demonstrated safety equipment for local students.

  • Keyser, WV

    Pinnacle Wind site staff presented to wind program
    students on wind industry jobs, safety, and training, and then gave a site tour.

  • Oahu, HI

    Kawailoa Solar launched a comprehensive internship program with Kamehameha Schools to provide hands-on job experience in engineering, development, and operations.

Download The Full 2019 Sustainability Report